“Baseball is great. I love it. I’m thankful I get to play it, blessed to be able to play it past high school. But at the same time, I know it’s a platform to be able to do other things. We’re just excited we get to do it. We know that baseball is going to end one of these days, hopefully a long time from now. And hopefully we have some things that continue on long, long after we’re gone.”
- Clayton Kershaw
Clayton has always realized that getting to play baseball is a privilege and nothing he ever deserved to be able to do. Growing up, he dreamed of some day getting to play professionally. Clayton attended Highland Park High School in Dallas, Texas. His senior year, he committed to playing baseball at Texas A&M University. Then in June 2006, his dreams came true when he was drafted in the 1st round of the MLB draft—pick #7 by the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Only a few days later, he was on a flight to Vero Beach, Florida to begin rookie ball. He loved so many things about the minor leagues. Getting paid to play baseball was awesome, but the guys he met became some of his best friends. During his second season in 2007, he played in Midland, Michigan with the Single-A Great Lake Loons. After playing in the All-Star Futures Game that summer, Clayton was promoted to Double-A in Jacksonville, Florida. He finished out the 2007 season, and began the 2008 season there as well.
On May 25, 2008 Clayton made his Major League debut against the St. Louis Cardinals. At the time, he was 20 years old and the youngest baseball player in the major leagues. Clayton’s family and friends all flew to Los Angeles for this monumental day.
2011 was a milestone year for Clayton. He was named Opening Day pitcher for the first time against the World Series champions, the San Francisco Giants. That summer, he was selected to the National League team for the All-Star game in Arizona. He finished the season with 21 wins, 248 strikeouts and 2.28 ERA, winning the NL pitching Triple Crown title. After that season, he was awarded the Warren Spahn Award for being the best left-handed pitcher in 2011, the Players Choice Award for Most Outstanding NL pitcher, the Gold Glove Award as the top fielding pitcher in the NL, and honored with the National League Cy Young Award.
In addition to other awards, Clayton is particularly humbled by the Roberto Clemente Award, which he won after the 2012 season for his humanitarian work. He was the youngest recipient of the award. Clayton says, “It means a lot. You know, I’ve been so fortunate to get to start playing baseball professionally at the big league level at an early age, and I’m so thankful for that. With that comes a great platform to do stuff off the field. I was just fortunate that I got a great start in L.A., and could start doing stuff off the field almost immediately. It’s blossomed into what Ellen and I have started now, Kershaw’s Challenge, and it’s just truly a testament to everybody involved—the Dodgers for letting me get up there that fast, and for the people letting me create a platform off the field, which is just really special.”
Clayton’s 2013 season began with a bang— hitting his first major league homerun on Opening Day against the San Francisco Giants and pitching a complete game shutout. His season was another one for the record books, leading the Major Leagues for the third year in a row with a 1.83 ERA. Clayton won his 2nd Cy Young award and 2nd Warren Spahn award. He was honored with the Branch Rickey award for humanitarian work, which will always have a special meaning beyond his many pitching accolades.
The 2014 baseball season was another amazing year. Clayton led the Major Leagues for the fourth season in a row with a 1.77 ERA. He also had the most wins (21) in the National League. The off-season brought another streak of incredible awards: his 3rd Cy Young award, 1st Most Valuable Player award and 3rd Warren Spahn award. In 2015, Clayton reached a career high number of strikeouts, finishing the season at 301 strikeouts. For each strikeout, he made a contribution to Kershaw’s Challenge.
As his career progresses, Clayton is made more aware of his unique, important platform to give back to others and make an impact in the lives of vulnerable children. Kershaw’s Challenge is his way of doing just that. With a recent commitment to seven more years in Los Angeles, Clayton acknowledges that, “with this contract comes great responsibility—not only as a pitcher, but also to be a good steward of these resources. To whom much is given, much is required. Ellen & I are excited to take an undeserved blessing and Lord willing, make a difference in the lives of others.”